Men’s health is a topic that in the past never got talked about much. Sadly today, it is still a topic that doesn’t get as much attention or awareness brought to it as it should. Why do men take a sideline stance when it comes to their health? Why do we as women conform to societal beliefs around masculinity and femininity? Has our definition of masculinity negatively impacted the health of the males in our life? Is it time to redefine masculinity in our modern day world? So many questions that I hope spark some curiosity and the evolution of new directions in answering these questions.
Dr Andrew and Benny are two men who grew up within Australian society where their masculinity had been defined by how much meat they ate, how many beers they drank and how hard they worked. This idea of masculinity dates back, way back. Men today are not sent off to war like they once were. They do they have to endure the physical, mental and emotional torture of battle or threat of not returning home, which back in the day was a representation of masculinity. To translate this to modern day, the power of man killing animals and eating meat, with the luxury of drinking a ‘manly’ drink like beer after working hard to provide for their family is an interpretation of what society deems as manly. Think about society and how we set our boys up for this wiring. A baby boys first breath is accompanied with the wrapping of them in a blue blanket. This quickly evolves to blue clothes, trucks to play with, girls to chase and tease, the idea that if you fall you don’t cry you just get up and get on with it, then comes the powerful jobs and need for authority… the masculinity list goes on and on. Unfortunately, this generational wiring is now linked to one of our biggest health epidemics to date. That being, men’s health. Men’s health has been something that has been dismissed and not spoken about. The whole ‘she’ll be right’ attitude has seen men suffer in the past. Today mental health issues in men are on the rise, more specifically men having the highest suicide rates compared to women. Statistics around chronic lifestyle diseases and illnesses are also proving more prevalent in males. Dr Andrew starts the episode by stating that as a male himself and from the men he has seen in his job, “we tend to neglect our health”. He claims that a lot of men don’t want to go see their doctor, they deny their symptoms and they present late. This is a major psychological issue ingrained in males. Dr Andrew says that women are very proactive when it comes to their health, they are more inclined to present symptoms early, talk about their health and seek support. When it comes to masculinity and eating a plant-based diet, Dr Andrew believes that as a society, men who follow a plant-based diet are viewed as weak. Men and masculinity have typically been linked to those who eat a big steak and consume beers. So swapping that for plants goes against everything men have been wired for. Dr Andrew was once one of those males who also thought the same of men who only ate plants, weak and less of a man. It wasn’t until Dr Andrew saw the bigger picture and awoke to the idea of compassion. He quickly realised that as a species we lack compassion. In compassion and in the unmasking of masculinity, we will be able to protect, preserve and save our beautiful planet. He believes this is one of our biggest threats at the moment, the future of our home. Dr Andrew states that as a species, compassion is our morality. He believes that no other species has morality or compassion like us as humans. It is our right to live from a place of compassion. What makes us different from other species is our ability to express emotions, not our ability to exert our masculinity. By holding power and authority over the weak, by suppressing our emotions and not talking about our health and the health of the planet, we are causing mass suffering. What is interesting is that the one trait that makes us human is our emotions and compassion, is seen as our weakness. Dr Andrew believes we need to embrace the compassion within all of us. If we want to live our most authentic human experience and have a planet for future generations, it’s time to let go of the stigma surrounding masculinity and step into compassion as a race.
For Benny and Dr Andrew, the first step to questioning all they knew about masculinity was ditching the steak and beers and embracing plants. It was the one thing that was in his control and that he could do immediately to help redefine masculinity and contribute to the longevity of the planet. Dr Andrew has stopped worrying about what society believes or ‘thinks about him’. He has switched focus onto his little boy and wants to know that he has done absolutely everything he could to have a sustainable and healthy planet for his son and one day hopefully his son’s son. It really does start with spending our dollar more consciously and knowing what our consumption is doing to the health of the planet. As men, today Benny and Dr Andrew meet up over a kombucha instead of a beer and snack on some plants instead of comparing steak size and quality. Dr Andrew also questioned the myth that men who eat plants are weak, skinny and fragile. Today masculinity is so wired around strength right… well, look at Benny. A plant-based personal trainer who is thriving, glowing with optimal health and physically exploding with muscles. He is an example of a male defying the odds and adopting compassion and plants overpower and ego.
Dr Andrew goes on to discuss the three P’s. A concept first presented to him in his early physiotherapy days before he was a doctor. From his studies, Dr Andrew learnt that the 3 P’s that men are wired for are to provide, protect and procreate. These are the 3 defined P’s that link to a man’s masculinity and his health, defined by modern society. Dr Andrew explains, to provide means for a man to provide for his family with adequate food, shelter and clothing. The level of luxury to which he does this, is, unfortunately, a direct link to his masculinity. You know what they say, the bigger the house the bigger the… wallet of course. To protect means a man should be strong enough to protect his family from any external threats. Back in the day, this may have been from a bear or wild animal. Or an act of patriotism is going to war. Today it resembles safety and security in the home financially and physically. Finally, to procreate, meaning to reproduce with a woman to create more humans. If one of the three P’s is taken away from the male or if one becomes under threat, this will question their masculinity, basically telling the male he has failed as a ‘man’. The irony today for men trying to procreate is the increasing impotence rates or erectile dysfunction, which is a man’s inability to get or maintain an erection required for procreation. Impotence is now being linked to poor lifestyle choices with specific reference to poor dietary choices and environmental toxins. Dr Andrew states that current research is suggesting that adopting a plant-based diet may increase your sex drive and may improve erectile dysfunction. Dr Andrew has seen multiple cases in his patients, family members and friends that have gone on a plant-based diet and have reported having a higher sex drive and ability to get and maintain an erection for longer. One of Dr Andrews friends said to him that if a plant-based diet is having such a positive effect on the male reproductive organ, imagine what other amazing things it is doing for the rest of the body… the heart, the brain… Dr Andrew agrees that the physiology behind improved impotence and its direct correlation to a plant-based diet will have other positive impacts across the physical body, there is no doubt about it. If a man’s masculinity is dependent on his ability to procreate and a plant-based or vegan diet has been shown to improve impotence, then how ‘manly’ is it to eat a steak anymore? The vegan diet is changing the game. Dr Andrew mentions the release this year of the long-awaited documentary The Game Changers. The Game Changers was directed by James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger and many more high-profile athletes and celebrities making the move to a plant-based lifestyle. Within the documentary, it tracks the erections and impotence of three athletes. One athlete eats predominantly meat and animal products and the other eats a vegan diet. The athlete who eats animal products, when compared to the athlete who ate a vegan diet, had far less erections over a set space of time. The erections of the meat eater also lasted a shorter amount of time. These results are very interesting. Benny believes that the way the majority of men are living today is not serving them or our planet. Men should not be products of society or old generational conditioning and unfortunately, as a result, are suffering. Men are suffering in Australia today from the highest suicide rates to date. Depression rates are increasing, and men just aren’t opening up or talking about their health. Benny believes that externally men are ‘beating their chests’ and may appear tough and strong by acting like they have it all together. On the inside, they are weak and suffering. Ben believes the whole idea of what it means to be masculine needs to be redefined. The fact that being masculine is defined as being a man should be changed in his eyes to “I am a human”. We are human first before we are a male or female. Both sexes are hormonally, chemically and physiologically designed to be a balance of masculinity and femininity. One should never have come before the other. Only we have that to blame. As a society and how we are perceived, be it masculine and powerful or feminine and emotional, we need to embrace both as that is equally important and may be needed in different circumstances. Dr Andrew explains that thanks to a platform like social media, we are exposed on the daily to huge amounts of people who will perceive us based on societies perceptions. He believes before you worry about your balance of masculinity and femininity irrelevant of your sex, first and foremost, it’s about being comfortable in your own skin and letting go of that societal expectation. Dr Andrew was taught by his wife to not care about what people think. He said he was ridiculed for going plant-based and ditching the animal products. After taking on and practising the advice from his wife, he let go of what society deemed masculine and acceptable and embraced the research. Benny believes the majority of men are pretending. He describes that a real man should just be a real human that knows how to show love and compassion. He believes that we should all be humans first that fully embrace our femininity and masculine energy positively. What all of this comes down to is men needing to start taking care of themselves. In my opinion, we all just need to remove the masks and get back in touch with the feminine, women included.
The first step for Benny and Doctor Andrew in their journey to redefining masculinity was going plant-based which allowed them to strengthen that link between love and compassion. Dr Andrew believes the one thing a man can do right now that is fully in his control is to adopt a plant-based diet. Why, because it’s easy and something you can do right now. You can make a positive impact on your health and the environment and redefine masculinity.
We urge all humans to start talking about their health and make informed choices. You only get one body and one world (that we know of), so let’s stand in our power and live our best human life that we possibly can that doesn’t harm our planet.